What to choose? Arabica or Robusta for Espresso
Updated: Sep 19
In 1753, a Swede named Carl Linnaeus published a book for determining the method of sorting animals and plants called "Systema Naturae" (used by botanists to this day).
He classified the Rubiaceae family for the first time, which includes more than 500 Recognized varieties and more than 6000 sub-varieties.
Three varieties of the Rubica family are coffee varieties - Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica.
Arabica and Robusta coffees are mainly the two varieties grown and marketed, while the third variety, Liberca, is rarely sold.
Each variety has sub-varieties (a total of about 25) that grow in different parts of the world.
Each region/country or even a private grower chooses the sub-variety they believe will produce the best coffee taste. Of course, the sub-variety has to be suitable for weather and soil to grow in their region.
Here are several subspecies known in the world:
For the Arabica variety: Bourbon, Typica, Gesha, Java.
For the robusta variety: Tupi, Lempira, Catisic.
For example: in Panama, several sub-varieties are grown, one of which is the Geisha sub-variety, which has often won Acalades as the best/most expensive coffee.
The high demand for coffee - the global production volume has already crossed the 170 million bag mark, with each sack containing 60 kg of beans - means that coffee is one of the most common crops in the world. The coffee plant is grown in many countries in Africa, Asia, and of course in South and Central America, and the variety is wide: there are more than 100 recognized varieties of coffee.
At the same time, two varieties have taken over the market, mainly thanks to their high quality - Robusta and Arabica.
Accordingly, one of the most frequently asked questions by lovers of the delicious and invigorating drink is which is better - Arabica or Robusta beans.
The above question is the type of question that does not have an unequivocal answer, such as "Which is better, a pool or the sea?", "Wine - white or red?". To know which is the right choice for you, you should get to know the two popular varieties, and thus make a decision.
Arabica - The Pampered Tree
Arabica is the most common and controls about 75% of the coffee trade markets in the world.
The Arabica plant has earned the title of "spoiled" since it grows in high places - above 1000 meters and is very sensitive to any change in weather conditions.
One night of frost is enough to destroy an entire year's crop. In addition, the plant is also susceptible to pests and diseases.
Despite all the "trouble" it causes growers, it yields a good return.
Arabica coffee is generally considered higher quality than Robusta (not always, there is a lot of bad Arabica on the market).
The amount of caffeine in it is low, and its rich taste with its delicate aroma and pleasant acidity leaves a light taste of caramel in the mouth.
Arabica grows mainly in South America and East Africa.
The two standard varieties of the Arabica tree are Typica and Bourbon.
In recent years, attempts have been made to develop hybrids with the Robusta variety to overcome the high sensitivity of the Arabica plant to viruses and diseases and to obtain more robust, more resistant varieties that yield more and have an improved taste.
Robusta - The Durable Tree
The Robusta tree is grown mainly in Asia, West Africa, and a little in Brazil. It is considered a much stronger tree than the Arabica, more resistant to diseases and pests, and its height can reach up to 10 meters in some places.
Although the robusta tree requires more precipitation, it can be grown at sea level and is more resistant to changes in the weather.
The shape of the fruit is more oval than the Arabica's, and its ripening period is about 11 months.
The robusta beans contain almost twice as much caffeine as the arabica beans; their taste is full and bitter and has low acidity, and after drinking, a slightly sour taste remains in the mouth.
Taste and Texture
Another essential comparison is the taste and texture of the coffee drinks made from Arabica and Robusta beans.
The Arabica is characterized by a gentle bitterness, a relatively low creaminess, and a sweet aroma (fruits or jasmine).
Robusta coffee beans offer a rich and thick crema, a more pronounced bitterness, and a relatively neutral taste.
A rich cream layer is considered higher quality, but this is a matter of personal taste.
The taste of Arabica can be defined as "round" and delicate, with balanced acidity.
Coffee produced from Robusta beans will have a more substantial presence, and after finishing the sip, a grainy effect remains in the mouth. At the same time, it is essential to emphasize that there may be differences in flavors and textures between drinks based on the same type of beans, and certainly when it comes to a blend of two kinds of beans.
For example, Lavazza coffee beans - one of the most well-known and respected companies in the world of coffee - are offered in several versions, including Gold Selection (a mixture of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta that produces an aromatic and balanced coffee with the taste of roasted nuts), Tiara Brazil (a similar blend, i.e., 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta, with chocolate flavors and touches of hazelnut) and Tiara Colombia (100% Arabica, citrus, and fruity aroma.
Arabica or Robusta for Espresso: Final Thoughts
Robusta vs. Arabica
The variety of the coffee trees and the growing conditions significantly affect the taste of the coffee.
Two main coffee trees are widely sold: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora (also known as Coffea Robusta).
Arabica beans have a better, sweeter taste and are the best choice for a good
Robusta coffee is easier to produce and has more caffeine, but Robusta is more bitter than Arabica.
You can tell the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans: Robusta beans are rounder, while Arabica beans are more elliptical.
Arabica or Robusta - Summary of the Differences
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